The Star Hotshots and the TNT KaTropa Texters slug it out in a key game Wednesday night at the MOA Arena in Pasay City, both pressing their drive for the crucial twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
It’s a crucial matchup where the Hotshots bring back old import Ricardo Ratliffe, fresh from a tour of duty in the Korean league where he powered the Seoul Samsung Thunders to a runner-up finish.
With Ratliffe taking over from Tony Mitchell, the Hotshots have some adjustments to make but so do the Texters in their 7 p.m. setto.
It’s a surprise move considering the Hotshots have done well with Mitchell, winning six of eight matches.
The two teams are on equal footing heading to the last game before the mid-season tourney takes another brief break to give way to the staging of the SEABA Championship on May 12-18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots will be without Allein Maliksi and Jio Jalalon while the Texters will be minus Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy in their showdown.
“Parehong kulang lineup but we still look forward to a good, tough duel,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.
He also said they’re happy with the performance of Mitchell, and it just so happen that Ratliffe was their original choice.
Ratfliffe, Star’s import replacement to Denzel Bowles in the same conference last year, flew in from Seoul Friday and had his first practice session with the Hotshots Sunday.
“We have no problem whatsoever with Tony. Talaga lang first choice namin si Ratliffe at hinintay lang namin matapos ang commitment niya sa Korea,” said Victolero.
Mitchell led the Hotshots to a strong 6-2 start in the current Commissioner’s Cup with his averages of 21.25 points, 14.38 rebounds 1.7 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.0 steals.
He’s only downside was he’s being a foul-prone player.
“We have no problem even with that. We survived even when he was in foul trouble situation. I just really feel Ricardo will fit better in our team,” said Victolero.
In taking over from Bowles last year, Ratliffe rallied the Hotshots back into contention. Star subsequently made the quarterfinals where, as the eighth-ranked team, it narrowly upset top seed San Miguel Beer.